One of the overflowing waste bins at Goodman’s Bay.
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENTAL activist Heather Carey yesterday said she hopes that the proposed Public Beaches and Parks Act will address the “appalling conditions” local beaches and parks are left in following public festivities.
Speaking primarily on the state in which Goodman’s Bay beach was left after the Independence holiday weekend, Ms Carey said that the issue of large amounts of trash left scattered on public beaches has gone on for years unchecked.
She criticised Bahamians for not taking responsibility in cleaning up after themselves and for “living like pigs” by throwing litter everywhere.
“I have lived next to Goodman’s Bay Park for 12 years and it is a constant,” she told The Tribune. “There will be periods of time when I am very impressed that the clean up crews (government workers) have been out there first thing Monday morning and by mid-morning the place is spotless. I’m not sure what is going on at the moment and why the garbage has been left to sit and blow in the wind. It seems that government cleanup is inconsistent.”
According to Ms Carey, a spokesman for local environmental group, Raise Awareness For the Bahamas Landfill, she has advocated against this issue for years without results. “I think the issue is the responsibility of both government and the public. Unlike most Bahamians, I don’t want the government to be responsible for everything and to be the fall guy.
“The government is necessary to put a framework in place, to provide laws as guidelines as how we function as a society. The Bahamian people have got to take responsibility for living like pigs and throwing their garbage anywhere and thinking that someone will pick up after them. Penalties are in place and should be in place for people who cannot live together and function together as a community. In other countries people have to pay to go to parks, to park their cars there, to have events. This offsets the cost of government maintenance.
“We need to educate Bahamians on the environmental effects of littering but I honestly don’t know how you get someone to understand that they cannot simply drop their trash anywhere. Ultimately the public are responsible for how they live and the choices that they make. And we are making poor choices.”
Ms Carey said it is “unacceptable” for the public beaches of a major tourist destination to run rampant with litter. “One only has to snorkel ten feet offshore at Goodman’s Bay to find hundreds of plastic bags sitting in the sand. I feel the government drags their feet because, as many governments around the world do, they do not see the environment as a priority issue. However, when we promote ourselves as being the best destination for sun, sand and sea, it is unacceptable that our beaches are full of litter and that our oceans along the coastline are full of plastic bags.”
In an open letter sent to Free National Movement Leader, Dr Hubert Minnis, Minister of the Environment, Kenred Dorsett, and Progressive Liberal Party Chairman, Bradley Roberts, Ms Carey offered some solutions to the ongoing issue.
She recommended that the government charge a mandatory fee for any events taking place in or around public parks and beaches, adding that a minimum of $1,500 be charged for large events. “If they do not remove all trash, then keep the fee. It can be done. If the folks won’t do it because they know it’s right, then incentivise them with financial loss,” she wrote.
“Groups over 20 should require a permit and thus pay a fee, maybe a tiered fee depending on the size of the group. This does not mean that every group should be granted a permit! Discretion should be used. Put more bins in place and put a dumpster in each parking lot so that large events can at least have somewhere else to put their trash. The dumpster should be emptied first thing on the Monday morning or the day following the public holiday – otherwise rats will gather.
“Wardens should be in place patrolling the beach on weekends, public holidays and throughout the summer when usage of the parks and beaches are at their highest. There should be immediate fines of minimum $75 to anyone throwing trash on the ground. Difficult to implement but at least if you start with some, the message will be out. Increase duty on styrofoam products to 75 per cent and reduce duty, stamp tax and VAT on biodegradable products and products made from recycled products. Increase duty on the plastic bags that are imported for use at the food stores; implement a law that plastic bags will be phased out within three years. Reduce/eliminate duty for three years on reusable bags – particularly ones from recycled products.”
Last October, Mr Dorsett pledged the government’s commitment to improving access to beaches and increasing the number of state-managed parks. At that time he said the creation of the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority to manage the public sites will open the door for a wide variety of jobs and lead to the establishment of a Bahamas Parks and Beaches Rangers Service.